Do Hawaii counties have authority to regulate GM crops and pesticides?

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The question of whether or not counties have the authority to regulate pesticide use and genetically engineered crops was at the center of a federal court hearing on Wednesday challenging Kauai County’s new ordinance imposing buffer zones and disclosure requirements on biotechnology firms.

Global seed companies Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Agrigenetics and BASF are seeking a permanent injunction against Kauai Ordinance 960, which prohibits pesticide spraying near schools and hospitals; requires disclosure of restricted pesticide use about certain levels; and mandates disclosure of the cultivation of genetically engineered seeds. The decision, which Judge Barry Kurren said he hopes to issue before the ordinance goes into effect next month, could have implications for other counties in the state that want stricter laws regulating biotechnology in agriculture.

Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, Kurren asked attorneys to focus their arguments on whether or not the county ordinance preempts existing state or federal law.

Margery Bronster, former state attorney general and attorney for the plaintiffs, questioned the authority of Kauai County to pass the law, pointing to existing state and federal regulations on pesticide use. Conversely, county lawyers said that it’s the responsibility of the plaintiffs to show that Ordinance 960 defies state law.

“There’s no state statute saying, ‘You can’t do this,’” said David Minkin, attorney for Kauai County.

Read the full, original article: In Hawaii, who has the authority to regulate GMOs and pesticide use?

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